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Mattie Schmidt ’22 is a hor­ti­cul­tural assistant for the college. She is pic­tured in the Stro­sacker green­house. Courtesy | Mattie Schmidt

It all started at three in the morning for Mattie. 

“My love for plants kind of hap­pened. It just took off from one night over the summer,” Mattie said. “I started researching plants and land­scaping until three in the morning. Then I began land­scaping my parents’ yard back home.” 

Schmidt, a junior and rhetoric and public address major, is now one of the assistant hor­ti­cul­tur­alists in Hillsdale College’s main­te­nance department.

Schmidt said her affinity for plants only began her sophomore year. Before getting a job with the main­te­nance department, Schmidt worked in the green house on campus. 

Her roommate kept a lot of plants in their room. At first, Schmidt didn’t see the appeal of taking care of so many plants, but after going home for the summer, she dis­covered how inter­esting and enjoyable tending plants could be. 

Her summer break con­sisted of “waking up, working out, and land­scaping all day,” she said.

Schmidt said she con­tinued  her agri­cul­tural skills and knowledge of plants while working in the green house on campus last year. In one short semester, she developed her green thumb to that point that she pursued a position as assistant horticulturist.

“I enjoyed my time working in the green house and it def­i­nitely helped prepare for my work on campus this year,” Schmidt said.

As assistant hor­ti­cul­turist, Schmidt said she works in the Main­te­nance Department under Angie Girdham, taking “care of all of campus — all land­scaping, irri­gation, tree pruning, taking care of the arb — every­thing except the grass.”

Because it’s still winter, she spends most of her time cre­ating plant labels for the summer sale  con­ducting research on the history of the Arb. In the future, she explained, the Arb might become a museum, so she reads many of its doc­u­ments to uncover its history.

In the spring and summer, Schmidt said, the department resumes more hands-on inter­action with plants, more rep­re­sen­tative of a horticulturist’s duties. Schmidt has done a lot of work in the Children’s Garden, located between Olds Dor­mitory and the Barbour House. As the weather grows warmer, she intends to resume her work in the garden, including pulling weeds and sowing new plants once the weather allows it. 

“She is cer­tainly pas­sionate about plants and her respon­si­bil­ities in the garden,” Girdham, Schmidt’s boss, said. “That drive is very obvious to all of us around her. She is espe­cially won­derful about getting people into the gardens — giving impromptu tours and intro­ducing them to all the beau­tiful and often unno­ticed details.”

Last fall, Schmidt worked in the Children’s Garden, growing produce like lettuce, kale, and radishes. In the future, she said, the garden hopes to add more plants and flowers to encourage more children to enjoy the garden in the warmer weather.

Schmidt doesn’t leave her green thumb at work. She enjoys growing plants at home with her roommate, junior Lauren Benson.

“We’re living in the Nest next year and we’re super excited to garden at the house,” Benson said. “Cur­rently, our dorm room is filled with plants and dried flowers.” 

Luciya Katcher, a fellow plant enthu­siast and Schmidt’s friend, said their friendship grew through their mutual love of plants. 

“We took shooting class together this past fall and the fall semester of the year before,” Katcher said. “While driving together, we would talk about our love of plants, and it became a special bonding expe­rience for us. Mattie and I share the passion of making beau­tiful spaces and using plants in our own cre­ative ways.” 

Schmidt enjoys planting a wide variety of species and has become very familiar with all sorts of planting tech­niques while working on campus. She said her favorite types of plants are perennials.

“Peren­nials will not die in the fall and then rebloom every year like annuals,” Schmidt said. “They bloom in six to eight week periods, so you don’t have that color all summer long. I love peren­nials because they have such varied colors and provide such a beau­tiful setup with other plants based on how they fill in.”

She also espe­cially enjoys peonies for their big blooms and sweet smell, as well as the chal­lenge they present her.

“I always have trouble getting them to grow, because I tend to plant them too deep. So, it feels like an accom­plishment when I get them to grow,” Schmidt said.

Mattie said that college is very aca­demic and mental, so it is relaxing and bal­ancing to have a con­trast of pro­ducing some­thing tangible.

“My love of plants grew from the love of having some­thing you can see the actual outcome of,” Schmidt said. “It’s about being able to yield something.”